“Ciao!”-- The greeting I received sweetly from a young stiletto and cowl top dress clad women with a matching tan pocketbook. Her equally styled friend followed behind expressively with the same greeting. I continued to hold the door open to my apartment building, as they seemingly floated by. Struck, I pushed out a broken “Buona Sera”, unsure of my pronunciation or the intent behind the smiles and informalities of the women, who’d later become a couple of my closest friends. My flat: Via Belmeloro 19, Northern Bologna, near the train tracks, described as a very dangerous area, but that relative to “those who choose to walk home late and oblivious to their surroundings” as described by the schools receptionist. Being here in Bologna is simply wonderful. I am enrolled in a 2-year Masters program in International Economics and International Relations with The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Students have the option of spending their first year in Italy, which I opted to do late in the summer much due to my previous experience in DC and a budding desire to see Europe.
Three weeks here I’ve settled and acclimated to the late dinners, early mornings, beautiful women, artisan streets, political graffiti, and economic torture—both inside the classroom and outside—of Italy; and though It took a while, but I can confidently say that I am settled. The Bolognese are very friendly people, from the first day I arrived with my friend Sarah, our taxi driver from the airport lent us great insight into how personable people really are in Bologna. Though he spoke little English he pointed out many of sights and attractions that would later serve as vital landmarks on my late nights walking home from school. I found an apartment after only two days of being in Bologna, it a long three bedroom that I share with two other SAIS students, one from Serbia who graduation from U-Chicago, she’s really nice and has got me addicted to drinking coffee everyday, and the other also from Chicago who graduated from Colorado, he’s a great cook and hilarious and the best part he is also a Semester at Sea Alum, so often we exchange SAS stories. Last week I bought a bike, seeing that I’m 25 minutes away from school and most other people in the program its very much a cost effective alternative to driving, I’ve had a car since I was 17 and getting around was strange at first but the bicicletta serves its purpose.
The other students in my program all bring a exorbitant diversity of life and professional experiences, I’ve made friends who have offered to trace my Irish ancestry after having grown up in Dublin and worked for the national genealogical registry, lived through the war in Balkans, competitively ice skated, and have played for national European lacrosse teams, and that’s only skimming the surface of the wonderful interactions I’ve had with these people.